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  • ADK High Peaks Names/Graves Project

    Currently, twenty-four of the Adirondack High Peaks are named after twenty-three different people. Most are illustrious political figures from bygone eras, influential individuals in the history of the region, or little known folks who briefly spent time in the Adirondacks over 150 years ago. You've climbed the mountains that were named in their honor. You may even be familiar with the exploits of Bob Marshall, Orson Phelps, Verplanck Colvin, or Mills Blake. Or perhaps you corresponded with Grace Hudowalski while you were an aspiring 46er or even knew her personally. The rest are names relegated to the pages of dusty old history books. You've probably read the brief one-sentence bios on them in a guidebook but can only vaguely remember whether they were a politician, author, some sort of scientist, or a crusty old Adirondack guide. I'll guess you really never thought of what happened to them after their professional careers ended or gave any thought to how they died or where they were buried. Oddly, I have.

    This past weekend I finally completed an Adirondack historical project that I have been working on for the last five years. It all started in the fall of 2014 when I decided to take a drive through Albany Rural Cemetery which is just a few miles from where I live here in the Capital District. President Chester A. Arthur is buried there and I hadn't been to his gravesite in ages. That was my main reason for visiting but before setting out I gave a quick scan of who else was buried in the cemetery. William L. Marcy jumped off the page at me and I had one of those light bulb over the head moments. Maybe I could find and visit the graves of all of the people for whom the Adirondack High Peaks were named for. And so the project was born.

    I won't bore you with all the details of my research. Let's just say several of the people were very difficult to track down given I was only armed with a few historical references to who some of them even were. Complicating matters was that most of them died 100-150 years ago. I wasn't new to researching such information or visiting cemeteries. On my list of various hobbies visiting old cemeteries probably ranks somewhere down around 15th or so but I do find them fascinating. How people are buried tells you a lot about how they lived. I've been to maybe a hundred different cemeteries over the past few decades, generally when I'm traveling somewhere on vacation or driving through a town where somebody famous is buried. There's always something interesting to be found or a story to be told.

    So my master list includes the twenty-three people whose names are currently attached to a High Peak: Allen, Armstrong, Blake, Colden, Colvin, Dix, Donaldson, Emmons, Esther, Grace, Gray, Hough, Macomb, Marcy, Marshall, Nye, Phelps, Porter, Redfield, Seward, Seymour, Street, and Wright.

    And in an effort to have a complete a list as possible I also identified, researched, and found the graves of those people who high peaks were once named for and later changed, names used locally but never officially designated, a few disputed names, and one used by local Native Americans. I didn't get too deep into the weeds with names that may have appeared on one map from one source 150 or 200 years ago. I generally stuck to widely accepted use for a period of time as my cut-off point. That added nine more names to the list. Here are those people with the old/local/disputed mountain name in bold and the present day mountains that their names were once attached to in italics:

    Russell Carson - South Dix
    Herbert Clark - Marshall
    DeWitt Clinton - Marshall
    George Marshall - Hough
    Archibald McIntyre - Wright, Algonquin, and Marshall
    Duncan McMartin - Colden
    King Hendrick Theyanoguin for Thei-A-No-Guen (Whitehead) - Whiteface
    Sabael Benedict - for Sebille now Colvin
    Sabael (Lewis Elijah Benedict) - also for Sebille now Colvin

    Through my research I was able to locate all of the twenty-eight known grave sites of these thirty-two individuals and have visited and photographically documented each one. This quest has taken me to a few dozen different cemeteries all over the northeast and as far away as Washington DC.

    As for the four unknown sites... unfortunately, Esther, Sabael Benedict, King Hendrick, and George Marshall have been impossible to locate. King Hendrick was killed in the Bloody Morning Scout during the French & Indian War and is believed to be buried where he fell (on present day Route 9 between Exit 20 & 21 of the Northway). Sabael Benedict (aka just "Sabael") met with foul play somewhere near Puffer Pond southeast of the town of Indian Lake, and George Marshall was cremated upon his passing. I've visited the purported sites of the King Hendrick and Sabael deaths but obviously wasn't able to pinpoint the exact locations of their burials, and I'm certainly not going to bother the Marshall family regarding George.

    So that leaves Esther. Poor Esther. I hate to disappoint all of you but the tale of Esther McComb may just be apocryphal. The short story on this is that no researcher or historian can positively confirm her existence. This was covered at length in "The Lure of Esther" by Sandra Weber and "Heaven Up'Histed'ness" by the 46ers. I won't go into much detail other than I trusted the research others had done and did not go on the wild goose chase of trying to find her myself. The tale is great. The mythology will live on but there probably never was an Esther. Therefore, I have no burial information for her though her name remains on my list. I'm just going to count the summit plaque on the mountain named in her honor as my documentation.

    One last note on the list... I have included both the father (Sabael) and the son (Lewis Elijah Benedict) on the list because it's not exactly clear to me which one Sebille was named for though I'm leaning toward the father. Also, the name Sebille was used informally but I chose to include it because the stories behind these two individuals are so interesting.

    So phase one is complete. But is there a phase two of doing something with all of the information I have gathered? Honestly, I'm not sure. Perhaps I could write a book? Between all the pictures, cemetery maps, information on the burials, and some interesting stories on the later lives of these people I probably could put together 100-150 pages rather easily. But it is such a niche topic who would buy or read such a book? Or maybe I'll throw the info out there on a web site? At the very least I'll write it all up in some form. At least one County Historian I spoke with expressed interest in having a copy of my completed research. Perhaps others would as well. But I thought I'd share the abridged version of my work here first.

    If anybody notices a glaring omission or error on my part please let me know. I believe I have identified all of the relevant names/people but it's possible I have not. I won't be insulted with any corrections or additions you all might suggest. PLEASE message me if you discover something I missed. If anybody wants specific directions to any of the graves I would be happy to share the information. Just shoot me a message.

    Link to a Google Photos album of all of the graves. A few pics per name...
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/G55xkjn5oTb79uYUA

    And for those who wish to continue reading on the subject here are some highlights of what I found along the way. Just a few stories and pieces of trivia that might interest you...

    I have shared the story on the forum in the past about the time I cleaned the headstone of Old Mountain Phelps (https://www.adkhighpeaks.com/forums/...f-orson-phelps). Out of respect for the folks who live next to the cemetery I will not share exact directions to get there but it was the most difficult cemetery to find out of all of the ones on the list.

    The story of Verplanck Colvin's death and burial are a bit heart-breaking. It ties in with his lifelong friendship with Mills Blake who he knew since childhood. Colvin enlisted Blake's help with the Adirondack Survey and the two men worked, and lived, together until Colvin's death. Blake took care of his friend until the very end. Colvin had set aside a spot right next to his own in the family plot for Blake to be buried in. Later protests from Colvin family members prevented Blake from being buried where Verplanck Colvin had desired and the headstone intended for Blake remains blank to this day. Instead, Mills Blake lies in eternal rest just a few miles away from his lifelong friend in a different cemetery. Blake is buried beneath a very modest grave marker only labeled with his name in the plot of a family friend.

    The details of Ebenezer Emmons' burial, or more accurately... burials, is the perhaps the most difficult to unwind of all of the people on the list. He died in 1863 in North Carolina and was buried in City Cemetery in Raleigh. Sometime later his remains were removed and reburied in Albany, NY. However, his name also appears on monument in a family plot in the town of Middlefield, MA, where he was born. Essentially, this is a cenotaph. A cenotaph is a headstone, marker, or monument honoring a person whose remains are buried elsewhere. That monument is identical in size and shape to the one in Albany Rural Cemetery but the date of death on it is incorrect. Rather than the correct 10/1/1863 it reads 10/1/1864. A bit bizarre. I have yet to figure out the discrepancy. And as far as I can tell Emmons is the only one on my list with a cenotaph.

    Alexander Macomb is buried in the most interesting cemetery on the list by a long shot - the Congressional Cemetery in Washington DC. I recommend a visit the next time you are in the nation's capital. It is not a tourist trap by any means and I had the grounds all to myself when I visited. Besides the actual burials of countless politicians there are rows and rows of cenotaphs as well.

    Bob Marshall is buried in Brooklyn. The Marshall family plot in Salem Fields Cemetery is directly behind the Guggenheim family mausoleum. This is of some interest as the Marshall family camp at Knollwood on Lower Saranac Lake had numerous other prominent families maintain cottages there as well. Among them were the Guggenheims.

    A few years before William Nye died and "feeling the infirmities of old age creeping upon him" he went to live with his sister in Vermont. He met a tragic end in a house fire that started in the middle of the night. Attempts to rescue him from the upper room where he slept were unsuccessful.

    Two of the people on the list are buried in unmarked graves - Alfred Street and John Adams Dix. Street's unmarked grave is next to his wife's marked grave in Albany Rural Cemetery. Not sure which side of the headstone Street is buried, left or right, but cemetery records indicate he is there. Today as I was compiling this information I could not find my pictures for Street and had to drive back to Albany Rural Cemetery to take new ones. Luckily just a minor hiccup as the cemetery is just a few miles away. John Adams Dix is buried in Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan about fifty feet from Alexander Hamilton. Cemetery records and old photos show a headstone for Dix however it was removed or missing the day I visited to photograph it. Therefore, his grave is now unmarked.

    Archibald McIntyre is buried in a large family plot in Albany Rural Cemetery along with his wife, several of his children, and two of his son-in-laws: James MacNaughton and David Henderson. You may recognize those names. MacNaughton Mountain was named for James MacNaughton and the Henderson Monument along Calamity Brook marks the spot where David Henderson died of an accidental gunshot wound in 1845.

    And finally, here's some trivia about the various gravesites. I will just share info on the 23 names (only 22 if you exclude Esther) attached to the 24 presently named High Peaks. If you hadn't figured it out by now, Dix's name appears on two peaks.

    Burials by state: NY - 17, MA - 2 plus one cenotaph, VT - 1, CT - 1, DC - 1

    Burials within the Blue Line: 2 - Orson Phelps and Alfred Lee Donaldson

    Buried outside of the Blue Line but closest to the Blue Line:
    Thomas Armstrong - 2.5 miles
    Franklin Hough - 9.3 miles
    Silas Wright - 10.3 miles

    Person buried nearest the peak named for them:
    Orson Phelps - 7.7 miles
    Alfred Lee Donaldson - 12.7 miles
    Average distance - 142 miles

    Person buried furthest from the peak named for them:
    Alexander Macomb - 393 miles

    Death furthest in the past: Alexander Macomb (1841)

    Most recent death: Grace Hudowalksi (2004)

    Oldest: Grace Hudowalski (98)
    Youngest: Bob Marshall (38)


    Hope you found all of this of some interest. Thanks for reading.
    Last edited by Makwa; 01-07-2020, 07:21 PM.


  • #2
    Cant hit like hard enough on this one. Very interesting subject that I had never thought of or seen anywhere before, really neat idea. At one point when I wasn't as busy I had begun researching cemeteries to see if there were any nearby to me, or along my travels, where there were burials of medal of honor recipients/authors/other persons of note (this all began when I realized that a tiny backroad cemetery a half mile from my house is gated by gates which were formerly on the white house, due to the burial of Ulysses S Grant's sister in same cemetery). And this is something that surely piques my interest.
    Ill probably be contacting via PM at some point but please keep this thread updated if you get a website up.
    35er #3133
    46er #11799

    "Good Thoughts, Good Words, Good Deeds"
    Zarathustra

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. Feel free to shoot me a PM whenever you want.

  • #3
    I'm personal friends with John Emmons, a direct descendant of Ebenezer. If you need any info let me know.

    Also, this was fascinating. Great work!
    ADK 46/46W + MacNaughton, Grid 273/552
    Photos & Stuff

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Sean.

      Thanks for the offer as well. The Emmons date of death discrepancy between the two monuments has been bugging me for a while now. I have to chalk it up as a typo or simple mistake but I was always curious how it happened. Despite that curiosity I would never bug a family member to run down an answer. But I may take you up on the offer if something else less trivial is ever needed. However, as I envision writing this up now I probably won't need much info beyond publicly available sources.

  • #4
    This is a really cool project, and a helluva fascinating read. I'll go ahead and add my name to the list of people who would love to read your complete summary when you're done putting it together (print form would be great... I'd buy a copy).

    I think a lot of us suspected that the Esther story is just a story. Its a neat story though. Its great to hear this suspicion backed up by somebody who has put some real research time in.

    Glad to hear that Cliff was named for its terrain and not some dude named Heathcliff or something. I'll continue to dislike it without feeling guilty.

    Edit: I originally said Grace but meant Esther. Corrected above, no offense meant to Ms. Hudowalski.
    My mind was wandering like the wild geese in the west.

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks. Hopefully it doesn't take another five years to write it all up.

  • #5
    I just scanned this quick. How could the Esther story not be real? It is pretty specific. I think the coolest Adirondack themed female name would be Esther Skylight!
    Leave No Trace! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXO1uY0MvmQ
    ThereAndBack http://www.hikesafe.com/

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      When Russell Carson was researching "Peaks and People of the Adirondacks" in the 1920's he couldn't find anything to positively substantiate the claim. He heard a few stories from some old guides who heard those stories from others. It was a giant game of historical telephone. Folklore. Legend. But he printed the legend in his book anyway and the story stuck.

      More recently researchers and historians used the specifics given in his account to attempt to locate Esther. It's actually the specifics of the story that make it easier to research and disprove. Esther supposedly lived in the area/ very close to the mountain. Her age and full name were given. They were unable to locate anybody matching her description in the area from that time period. Historical records were combed through and nothing was found. There was speculation on similar names or perhaps other people that fit the general description but nothing could be corroborated. A lot of time was spent trying to track her down. Nothing. Not a shred of evidence. Read the sources I mentioned above and you will reach the same conclusion I did... Esther did not exist.

  • #6
    Why would the Esther story be made up? Maybe she was a visitor?

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      That wasn't the story though. The story was she lived near the base of the mountain and she went to go climb Whiteface against her parents wishes and she ended up on what is now called Esther. The details of the story were rather specific as to her age, name, and what town she was from (and even down to the road she lived on). Problem is, none of that can be confirmed. Russell Carson asked old guides and other old-timers about the name. Most had no clue as to the origin and some didn't even know the mountain had a name. Sandra Weber did extensive research for her book and pored over historical records and found no Esther. Let me plug her book here while we are discussing her...."The Lure of Esther" is definitely worth a read. Others thought the mountain was called Stores or Estes but neither of those was ever found to be accurate. It's a mystery that will probably never be solved. The work done to identify her was exhaustive and came up empty so I'm not sure what future seekers of Esther would ever find to confirm the legend.

      Putting all that aside for a second... for my purposes here whether Esther is real or not is almost irrelevant. She is a ghost. Nobody can find her. She's just like Sabael or King Hendrick. Nobody knows where they are. And if Esther is real nobody can identify who she was or what became of her. So I would just list her under the "unknowns" and be done with it.
      Last edited by Makwa; 01-08-2020, 02:29 AM.

  • #7
    Originally posted by Makwa View Post
    So my master list includes the twenty-three people whose names are currently attached to a High Peak: Allen, Armstrong, Blake, Colden, Colvin, Dix, Donaldson, Emmons, Esther, Grace, Gray, Hough, Macomb, Marcy, Marshall, Nye, Phelps, Porter, Redfield, Seward, Seymour, Street, and Wright.
    Makwa, your list is incomplete.
    You missed Santanoni a.k.a. Saint Anthony.

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    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks Yury.

      Seems that "most authorities" attribute Santanoni to a corruption of Saint Anthony by the St Regis and Abenaki Indians. They were converted to Christianity by the French Canadians and Saint Anthony was their patron saint. Being part French Canadian, and having discovered recently that I also have an Abenaki ancestor, I am embarrassed I missed this one. And I had read the story too. Russell Carson touched on it in "Peaks and People of the Adirondacks" but also had another story around the name "Sinondowanne" that he dismissed just a few paragraphs later. Anyway, my omission was not intentional.

      So, I guess we are dealing with Saint Anthony of Padua. Details of his death and burial from his Wikipedia page... "Anthony became sick with ergotism in 1231, and went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There, he lived in a cell built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella (now part of Padua), aged 35. According to the request of Anthony, he was buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, probably dating from the late 12th century and near a convent which had been founded by him in 1229. Nevertheless, due to his increased notability, construction of a large basilica began around 1232, although it was not completed until 1301. The smaller church was incorporated into structure as the Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna). The basilica is commonly known today as "Il Santo" (The Saint). Various legends surround the death of Anthony. One holds that when he died, the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord. Another legend regards his tongue. Anthony is buried in a chapel within the large basilica built to honor him, where his tongue is displayed for veneration in a large reliquary along with his jaw and his vocal cords. When his body was exhumed 30 years after his death, it was found turned to dust, but the tongue was claimed to have glistened and looked as if it were still alive and moist; apparently a further claim was made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching."

      Here's a live web cam of his tomb... https://www.santantonio.org/en/conte...thony-live-cam

      So we know where he is buried but I'm not flying to Italy any time soon to photographically document the tomb. My executive decision is that I'll add him to the list but will still call my research complete. I'm looking at a live web cam of the tomb right now. Close enough. At least I can say I've seen it live (though not in person).
      Last edited by Makwa; 01-08-2020, 09:21 AM.

    • Eddie Fournier
      Eddie Fournier commented
      Editing a comment
      Wow, I guess that makes him the "person whose epitaph is most like the mountain named for him". ps I enjoyed your post and would buy the book!

  • #8
    Originally posted by Old Hunter View Post
    Why would the Esther story be made up? Maybe she was a visitor?
    Thanks for the response Makwa. I guess I'll always wonder and believe in Esther. You did some awesome research.

    Comment


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks O.H.

      I will always wonder about Esther as well. The name appeared on a map as far back as 1858 but nobody really seems to know why. The problem with the Carson tale is that he was relying on the memory of 80+ year-old guides for details. Who knows what they actually remembered or how the story changed over the years. The Sandra Weber book goes into great detail on all of this. And "Heaven Up'Histed'ness" provides a pretty good summary of her work. She ran down every variation on the name Esther McComb that may have lived in the area for a very wide range of years and found nothing definitive. All alternative names and ideas were considered and researched. The amount of work she put in was staggering. It's a good story but the real Esther, if there was one, may always remains a mystery.

    • bikerhiker
      bikerhiker commented
      Editing a comment
      I too often find myself the pessimist and skeptic, so in this case of Esther Mtn I am just going to hope it was a triple (first name/last name/date) mix-up: it was Emily Combs in 1855ish. That story is almost too crazy and too awesome to be completely made-up. A bunch of things I have seen online is somewhat corroborated in Heaven Up-h'isted-ness!, showing a 16 yr old girl in the area around that time (1850s) at the Combs family farm. I really need to look into this more, as maybe we can get it renamed Mount Emily, which my daughter would go bonkers about despite the spelling difference.

  • #9
    Awesome post. Not that I have one but I'm assuming you'd never see an amazing, well thought out and original post like this on Facebook. Crazy cool idea with a, dare I say "forever wild" amount of thorough research. Thanks for sharing Makwa, I personally would've never known most/any of this or even thought to research it. The Esther legend is really intriguing all on it's own.

    Sidenote: Could potentially take longer than the typical hour but this would be a great Foot Stuff Podcast episode topic.

    Comment


    • Makwa
      Makwa commented
      Editing a comment
      Thanks salt. I appreciate the kind words. But the topic might be better on the 6-Foot-Under Stuff Podcast.

      I mentioned in my post above that I wouldn't bore you with details of the research but since you mentioned it here's a few thoughts...

      Finding details on famous people is rather easy. Finding the not so famous is anything but. Initially, the biggest challenge I was faced with was identifying who some of the people even were. For example, finding the grave of a Thomas Armstrong is easy. Finding THE Thomas Armstrong is a whole other matter when you're only armed with a few historical references to who the guy even was. Or locating Frederick Allen when you barely know where he is from. Finding Allen was harder than hiking the mountain named for him. And trusting the internet for anything becomes problematic. There are lots of web sites with conflicting/ incomplete information. Armstrong, Allen, Colden, Nye, and Carson were the most difficult to track down. The devil is in the details.

      Newer/larger cemeteries have on-line databases of burials and maps of their grounds available for genealogy researchers, those wishing to find an old friend or loved one, or even for those folks looking to do a walking tour of famous burials in a particular cemetery. That makes locating a grave rather simple. You consult the database to find the section of the cemetery your target is buried in, drive to that section in the cemetery (not all of them have great signage so being able to orient yourself with a map is a prized skill), then walk around it until you find the name on a headstone. You just have to hope that it hasn't been tipped over, broken, defaced, or removed over the past 100-150 years. As mentioned above that happened with John Adams Dix.

      The smaller and older cemeteries have no such databases. You're lucky to find a hand-drawn map or list of burials posted by a researcher on-line somewhere. Some cemeteries don't even have complete records of their burials and rely on those researchers to painstakingly catalogue each individual headstone in the cemetery. I chose not to just show up at a church or cemetery office is some small town with hopes of digging through burial records like a real researcher might do. I did about 98% of my research on-line or through books I have at home here. Then once I located a cemetery, even without identifying what section I should be looking in, I would drive there and start my search. Showing up at a cemetery where acres and acres of headstones are and not knowing where to look is a daunting task. I have become quite adept over the years at locating graves with little more than a picture found on-line then combing a cemetery using the visual clues discovered in the pictures. Marcy, Street, Herb Clark, Colvin, Hough, and the younger Sabael were difficult to find once on site.

      So overall it was a fun combo of research and in-the-field searching for what I discovered. The project took several years as I didn't have the occasion to drive to Washington, Hartford, Montpelier, small towns outside Syracuse, or other outlying areas very often. I dovetailed each of my searches with other trips to those locations. And did well over half the list as I drove home from various day hikes. Had a great time along the way.
      Last edited by Makwa; 01-08-2020, 02:10 PM.

    • FlyFishingandBeer
      FlyFishingandBeer commented
      Editing a comment
      Funny you should mention that. I DMed them a link to this thread a couple days ago. Maybe if a couple more people do the same they'll go for it.

    • salt
      salt commented
      Editing a comment
      Awesome man! Thanks for even more of the details, def not boring in any way.

  • #10
    Originally posted by salt View Post
    Sidenote: Could potentially take longer than the typical hour but this would be a great Foot Stuff Podcast episode topic.
    Halloween episode!

    Comment


    • #11
      Excellent stuff! Really impressive work and very entertaining to read.
      We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige

      Comment


      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Thanks deb.

    • #12
      This is a great project and thank you! yes would love to see any final write-up. Maybe a piece for Peeks? or Adirondack? I live in Utica so there're two names that have a claim to a nearby connection. Seymour is buried a mile away in Forest Hill Cemetery, and only a few miles farther up the road nearby (Oneida St), in Sauquoit, is the birthplace of Asa Gray. I have thought of these connections several times and really admire your project. Great reading.
      Jim

      "A full appreciation of mountains is not to be experienced by merely looking; that is why men climb." -Francis S. Smythe, British mountaineer

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      • Makwa
        Makwa commented
        Editing a comment
        Thank you Jim.

        Birthplaces... hmmm... now you've given me an idea. Finding all of those would be way harder than the graves. I wonder how many even still exist. You'd have to go back over 200 years on some of them.

    • #13
      What most people don't know is that Seymour is really named for the inventor of the mini skirt Seymour Hiney!
      Leave No Trace! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jXO1uY0MvmQ
      ThereAndBack http://www.hikesafe.com/

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